Filipina artist Nikki Luna's work to be auctioned off at Sotheby's

Filipina artist's work to be auctioned off at Sotheby's
By Walter Ang
April 5, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nikki Luna was already into her third year of political science course when she decided to quit and turn to fine arts. "I'd always loved to draw and you reach a point where, at the end of the day, you just want to do what you lust for. It was really art that I longed to do," she says.

She'd already had a taste of being exhibited as a polsci major when she did an installation for a group exhibit but after she shifted to fine arts, Luna has been exhibiting regularly since the early 2000s.

In 2008, Luna was accepted to a summer residency in Cooper Union, New York. She was the first Filipino to be accepted into the residency and only one of 19 chosen from over 210 applicants.

There she exhibited "This Side Facing You" ("wherein her experiences as a female individual determine her products") and began work on pieces for "The Heartless Insistence of Domestic Absence" ("littered with ironic, biting statements about a woman's role in the home") that eventually exhibited in Manila.

Her work has been described as "unfettered female sexuality navigating present constricting social structures."

"I like to voice out my thoughts on being a woman," she says. While she credits her education and mentors at the University of the Philippines for having "molded a lot of things in me," she quickly volunteers that it is her parents that have and continue to "define many things that I am."

She fondly recalls her thesis exhibit "Milk and Diapers" where the anchor piece was a series of breasts cast originally from her own and then from each other in succession, her statement on how every person is the same yet different from their mother.

"I love my mother like nothing else!" she says, a mother of three herself. "She's a `traditional' classic Pinoy homemaker mom. She always made sure the children were well fed and happy."

As Luna saw one way to be a woman from her mother, her father provided another viewpoint. "When I was growing up, he was the one who told me that I didn't need anything from anybody and that I didn't need a man to make me feel happy or successful."

The two seemingly disparate schools of thought live simultaneously and symbiotically in Luna, though she rejects any form of labeling on who she is and the work that she does. "Women should be confident as individuals, free of guilt and fulfilled. That being said, I'm not a feminist. I love being treated like a girl," she says with a laugh.

She makes no deliberate effort to conform nor to contradict stereotypes. While her works may be viewed as serious and important meditations on the issues of and surrounding women, this doesn't mean she is beyond joining pop art group exhibits like the launch of a commercial denim line.

"I do what I want. I have never cared for what other people think," she says. Nonetheless, one will notice Luna's use of repetition as an execution element in several of her works (multiple casts, looped videos, numerous photocopies, etc.), perhaps to underscore that what she has to say through her art is so important that she has to repeat it over and over just to make sure viewers get it.

When she creates art, she point out, it is always based on the personal. "I just try to make it universal. I want to bring out whatever I'm feeling or thinking about, like family or home or relationships, so that other people can experience it, too," she says.

While Luna views her themes as springing from the self, she is not oblivious to the role that art plays for others. "Art isn't just something you do to make pretty things," she says. "Art is an important tool for giving back to society."

Lithe and fashionable, Luna can easily be mistaken for a vapid socialite. Not many people know that while still in school, she founded StartART Project, a non- profit organization that gives free art lessons to sexually abused girls and women.

In the wake of the massacare in Maguindanao last year, she joined the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines in a short stint to give art lessons to the children in that area. She's also recently joined Women's Resistance of Impunity and Tyranny (Writ), a group composed of sociologists, psychiatrists, social workers, among others, that will be conducting more rehabilitation and counseling sessions in Maguindanao.

"I felt very privileged to be there, to help in some way with the women and children," she says of her trip. "I felt so small. The children there would never care for installations or fancy exhibits, they don't even know if they'll get to eat or if their parents are dead or not. Even if for just a few hours every week, art can be a way for them to release their pent up emotions and feelings."

Luna's "Unmentionables" will be auctioned at Sotheby's Hong Kong.

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